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Jones Recommends An Above Revenue-Neutral Tax Rate

Mecklenburg County Manager Harry Jones has recommended a budget that is not revenue-neutral. It would lower the property tax rate by just over a penny, but still set it above a revenue-neutral level. Much of that extra money would go to fund education. Under Jones's plan, the property tax rate would be set at 82.49 cents per $100 of assessed value. Because of property re-valuation this year, the county says that would mean about 57 percent of families would pay more in taxes. The rest would be paying less. The new rate would generate an extra $69 million. Jones says he doesn't make the recommendation lightly, but after two years of deep cuts the county needs to begin adding back. "Although the winds of change continue to swirl around us, we find ourselves once again standing on stable ground. We continue to see significant needs in our community," said Jones. He recommends giving CMS an extra $26 million, about half the increase the school board requested. That would be enough to keep class sizes as is and save about 260 teachers' jobs. He also told commissioners if they want to give more to CMS they should ask voters to approve a quarter cent sales tax. "Clearly education funding is directly related to two of the board's critical success factors which are increasing the high school graduation rate and supporting the creation of new jobs and developing our work force," said Jones. Under Jones's plan, the county would give the library system its full request, an extra $2.2 million. That would be enough to add hours to the regional libraries and keep the smaller neighborhood branches open. Jones also wants to set aside about $4 million for pay raises for county employees. And he wants to stop paying hospitals for indigent care. Republican commissioners have said they won't support a budget with a tax-rate above a revenue-neutral level. Democrats haven't said what they favor. But over Twitter last night, chairwoman Jennifer Roberts noted Jones's budget wouldn't give enough to CMS. The county will hold a public hearing on the budget tomorrow evening at 6 o'clock at the government center.